My Grandma Gordon (Alice) used to tell me to always be a lady. A preacher’s wife, she was a religious woman, tall and stout. She would have this “thinking look”on her face, that I do today, that my BFF calls my scrunchy face. But, when she smiled at you, the scrunchy went away and she smiled at you with her heart. In the early ’80s she sent me a card with a photo. She lived in Indianapolis and had been hired as a Kroger Greeter. The photo showed her with her wire-rimmed grandma glasses, with hair neatly pressed and pin-rolled in her grandma 40s-style rolls and she was smiling. Her trench hung neatly over her shoulders, her hands clasped demurely at her waist and a very large, blue-ribbon pin was planted on her shirt announcing her coveted position. She was so proud. And I’m sure she was hired because she was a lady.
My mother’s mother, Grammy, (Alberta) is a different kind of lady. She lives in Kansas, worked at KU, wore pencil skirts and heels and stylish wigs and would often have a Pal Mal cigarette dangling from her long, painted fingers. She has four daughters (pictured above) she tended to. She taught me how to make cheesecake and would give me bits and pieces of costume jewelry and talk about makeup, because that’s what she loves to do. Grammy is also the type of lady who, when angry, could smile quietly and perhaps ask if she could talk to you for a moment and quietly cuss you the f*ck out; but quietly, in your ear, for you to hear with impassioned heat and personalized emphasis.
Both of these ladies are sophisticated and taught me how to be such. My Grandma Gordon passed on, so I can only call on memories of her talking to me while smiling at me from her Chambers stove where she fried the best bacon and made the best eggs while coffee percolated on the kitchen table. I can luckily still call my Grammy whenever I want (sort of; it has to be before 8am or so, on Grammy time), and she will tell me about her doctor’s visits and call the doctor “that little so-n-so” and then giggle this giggle that we both know is only to keep the rest of the words she wants to say (or has already said privately during her appointment) trapped in mouth.
I try to live my life honoring these women. I try to cross my legs when seated in a restaurant. I try to speak with kindness, while being direct and honest. I try to wear lipstick, I try to keep do my nails on Sundays. I try to keep my shoes looking nice by fixing my heels when they get eaten up by these Prague cobble-stoned streets. I try to walk with my head high, shoulders back and with a small switch in my hip to let ’em know where I come from. I try to read the Financial Times, The New York Times and BuzzFeed so that I know what’s going on and can have intelligent conversations at dinner parties. I try to do these things that allow me to be a smart woman. A sophisticated woman with some sense, some compassion and some gosh-darn couth. I’m not as bold as my Grammy nor as pious as my Grandma Gordon, but I take plenty of pencil skirts and pin-rolls from them to help me be who I am. To me, this is being a Bettie.
I can spot another Bettie a mile away. Maybe she’s got some grandmas swirling around her; maybe she’s self taught. But I can assure you that I almost always see her before I hear her, because her presence is that strong…that sophisticated. The women I associate myself with are this.
Think about what makes *you* sophisticated, and be that. Today and (almost) everyday. Because being sophisticated has not gone out of style. You’re keeping it alive. Just in case you need some help, here are three (fun) tips to help you be sophisticated.
3 Tips to Be Sophisticated
- Show don’t tell.
- Treat people with respect.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
Thank you for reading this and for being a Bettie.
I love how nature is showing us her flawless beauty this Spring; I figured we should respond in kind. Therefore, this month in Bettie-land, we’ll focus on Beauty — both inside and out.
Beauty means alotta things to alotta people these days. You can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing a pretty-font message about reminding you to love yourself!, put yourself first! and be confident! I’m not any different.
The thing is, I do believe that you have to see your own beauty before you can fully show it to the world. It does absolutely nothing to have friends, family or strangers tell you you’re beautiful when you don’t believe it yourself. I say this from experience.
The reason I started Betties was to remind myself and other women of our beauty. That it IS there, but you must see it for yourself first. This can get tricky, because you can’t cheat your way through this. You have to believe it 100%. (At least 98%!)
In case you’re looking for a way to ace your beauty, we’re going to offer you some help this month because April is a month of new beginnings and unfolding.
My friend Ife’ Thomas is a woman of beauty. We met years ago in LA; she is a gorgeous singer…buttery, gooey, sensual gorgeousness pours out of her when she sings. She performed with the Betties for our cabaret shows where she lent us her magical voice. She has been a Bettie ever since.
Looking for a career boost, Ife’ (pronounced ‘ee-faye’) moved to the UK to attend Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014. While there she created Her Glow, a multi-service beauty and wellness brand. As far as I’m concerned, building this brand is a natural progression for this diva who’s look is always radiantly flawless. Ife’ is the woman who walks in the room and you’re like, “How does she do it?” Like really, HOW does she do it?
When Ife’ would post on her Facebook, I was always asking, “What lip color is that?” What eyeshadow did you use here?” and so on. To answer these type of questions and to help others “glow” is now her business.
So, for the entire month of April, we will focus on beauty and how to “Get Her Glow” with beauty and wellness tips from my lovely friend and colleague. Be sure to check back each week for new videos with tips and tutorials where Ife’ where spill the beans on all that’s good and beautiful. At the end of the month, there will be a fun surprise for the Bettie community. (If you’re not already on the Bettie email list or have not liked the Brown Betties Facebook page, now is the time! Please subscribe and like today.)
Looking forward to being beautiful with you this month…and always.
Meet Amanda Agate, she is the Program Coordinator of Global Curriculum in the University of Arizona’s Global Department. She’s also doing this while completing her MA in English Applied Linguistics in TESL from the College of English at UA. She graduates in May. And this summer, thanks to her Fulbright-Hays Group Project award, she will participate in teacher training in China!
This is how you prepare yourself to have an international life.
Amanda is one of those women with chutzpah who always finds a way, so a few years ago when she was faced with a few choices post-collegiate graduation, she took to the airways and found herself in Prague where she became TEFL certified at The Language House TEFL. After having applied to a few programs and not getting into her program of choice she found herself at a total loss and feeling defeated. She found a job working with a family in Italy as a sort of in-home “help us with our English” au pair. When that gig was up, it was back to the states to get her Masters.
She’s our last installment for March where we are celebrating our International Betties. I I thought Amanda’s story would help motivate those looking to live and work internationally by showing yet another option of how to get there.
I’m so thrilled to hear that you’ve landed this job. You must be so excited!:
Yes I am! I actually love my job.
The University of Arizona has 25 “micro-campuses” around the world! It is actually amazing. We help bring different majors, studies, and educational options to people in so many places and it feels great. We partner with different institutes to help provide “American credited degrees” to 25 different countries almost. So all around, it is giving many life-changing opportunities to driven and motivated people, which makes my heart happy! ANYWAY, I am in charge of helping to create a curriculum for the work that they receive, EX: Checking over material and making sure that from an English Language Learner perspective its on point and to help curriculum become the most culturally sensitive as possible.
This semester I am also in charge of teaching three courses online for our Jakarta, Phnom Penh, and Qingdao students. So even though I am “stuck in one place” I am constantly interacting with people of different cultures. Over all, my heart is very happy.
We met in Prague, where you actually danced as the first group of International Brown Betties. (I remember you messaging on Facebook even before you arrived in Prague asking if you could be a Bettie.) Tell us about that whole experience?
I moved to Prague back in 2016. I had always loved to dance and had been a dancer my whole life. From the age of five I contributed to professional dance, competitive dance and different genres on companies throughout high school and college and I loved everything about it.
In college I wanted dance to be my major. So, after high school I moved to the third best dance school nationwide and worked towards that goal of having dance as my major. I worked for over a year in a half, spending a lot of time, money, and effort into dance. I continually auditioned and was continually told “No”. After several auditions I was finally told “Not to waste my time… my body type was just not made for what they were looking for in their program…. “ It crushed me at the time. That was my life plan… and now I had to find another one. I did not give up on dance as a hobby though. I had learned to improve my technique and continually discover myself through dance and experimental movement, but nothing gave me the confidence and power in being a capable, confident, and powerful human and woman like being a Bettie has…
When I was introduced to you and Nicole, I was hesitant about being a Bettie, I can’t deny. It was a different type of self-expression that I was not used to, even though I did feel as though I came from diverse experiences (little did I know). It can almost be viewed as intimidating to some — to see women so confident and comfortable, that is. But why was that intimidating? Maybe because we are not used to seeing women that confident? That didn’t seem right… And of course, I was drawn to it. The glamour, the sass, the confidence, the sisterhood, and everything in between. I wanted to be apart of that. I wanted to have that confidence and know myself that much to be able to so. Everything that a female wants, everything that a female needs to feel. What we all deserve to feel. Being a Bettie was a lifestyle, that I learned to love very quickly.
I continued to practice, rehearse, and perform with The Brown Betties for a year in Prague. Now you do have to understand, that someone living abroad is already going through so many natural epiphanies during their experimental time of living in a culture that is not their own. The Betties brought me such a comfort in being uncomfortable. No matter what happened — bad day, stressful day, great day — the sisterhood of the Betties was there at the ed of the day. It seemed like sisters, people, Betties all alike, would come together from right where they were, for one another. That really played a significant and positive in my experience living abroad.
I now continue to dance where I am geographically located in Tucson, Arizona. I graduate in two months with my master’s degree, which is not in dance. Which is also okay. I have found other loves as well as dance and to mix with dance. And I put them all together somehow in some beautiful way to make up who I am. Balancing your loves is what matters. Thank you for all the lesson that being a Bettie has taught me. Once a Bettie, always a Bettie.”
Follow Amanda and her global adventures here: https://www.instagram.com/shmanduh/
Main photo from UA Global.
We continue with words from our international women! Here is an interview with Juwana Jenkins, a singer from Philadelphia who has lived in Prague for over twenty years and now calls it her home.
As an international artist, you’ve had to learn to navigate language, place and self as you have followed your passion, dreams and business. How do you find strength?
I’m driven and motivated to be my best self. Everyday I’m learning what that looks like and how that feels on that day under those unique circumstances, so learning is what gives me the greatest strength and motivation.
I’m absolutely enamored and enthralled by learning. I think it is the most magical thing on the planet. What made my head hurt and sapped my strength yesterday is the source of my wisdom, gratitude and positive energy today.
This virtuous cycle of learning by discovering and exploring whatever happens and experiencing gratitude and appreciation for life and the people that I’m blessed to encounter renews my hope and feeds my spirit.
That’s what a lot of my songwriting is inspired by. The blues, soul and gospel music that I sing shares the stories of my own challenges, struggles and journey and I’m so very humbled and inspired when people tell me how the songs reflect their own experiences and how it has given them strength in tough circumstances. I wrote “I Don’t Miss You” to express the bittersweet feeling of when my best friend, Bogdan, moved from Prague to Amsterdam, but the value of everything our love taught me has transformed me into a stronger and better person. Years later at a Gospel Mass held as a part of a Dutch Blues Festival, a father thanked me for dedicating that song to those who are no longer with us on Mother’s Day, because he had just lost his wife and it was his daughter’s first year without her mom.
What scares you?
Not fulfilling my potential is what I’m most afraid of. “To fulfill the potential that I now possess” was what I actually wrote as my life’s ambition in my high school yearbook, hence the enchantment with learning. Early in my professional career, I realized that “I don’t know what I don’t know.” For that reason, I seek out and am grateful for the company of wise, caring professionals and friends who compassionately help me to get out of my own way.
My producer Steve Wash and other musicians have been so generous, gently giving me feedback about the small, simple details that make all the difference, like “sing to a metronome”, “sing like you speak,” and “you don’t sing the song–the song sings you.”
Conversely, what I am afraid of has actually become something that gives me strength as a catalyst for change, growth and improvement that benefits myself and others from what I learn from the experience.
What does Prague mean to you?
That desire to fulfill my potential is what led me to travel, move abroad and eventually settle in Prague in 1998. Ever since I was a fifth grader, Europe to me was the place that artists like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, went to be free to express themselves. Inspired by the tales of Josephine Baker, I moved to the Paris of the -East twenty-one years ago on a one-year teaching contract.
I was enchanted by the air of endless opportunities for an African-American female blues singer in the Heart of Europe with the possibility of working in Western and Eastern Europe while traveling to family and friends in the States or vacationing in Asia where I lived for four years before making Prague my home.
Prague has more than lived up to my youthful aspirations. I’ve had the honor of performing not only in the same theatre where Mozart debuted “Don Giovanni”, but also at some of Europe’s largest and most prestigious festivals, such as United Islands of Prague, Sumperk Blues Alive, and Suwalki Blues Festival, besides radio and TV appearances as well as acting roles for both the large and small screens. All of this has given me the opportunity to share my platform with the charities I support as a patroness while also relating my experiences as a panelist, speaker and facilitator for both nonprofit and corporate events.
In Prague, I really have crafted a tapestry of life, blending together the distinct parts of who I am that resonates with others to offer the greatest value from my unique talents, experiences and traits.
What do you see for the future?
For these reasons, I’m happy to continue doing more of what I love for more people.
I’m excited that I’m being invited to perform both on my own as a solo artist as well as with my own band in places, such as Portugal, Holland, Latvia and Poland and am looking forward to sharing my own soul-blues, gospel infused sounds and uplifting music with more international collaborators. I’m honored and proud to be an ambassador for the blues, not only as a member of the European Blues Union, but also as the first blues performer some people have ever experienced live. The connections that I make with people at my shows are the inspiration for me to continue writing my own original music that I share on my YouTube channel and FaceBook page and the energy that radiates from the concert pics I post on my Instagram.
How has being a Bettie supported you in any way?
Being a Bettie has supported me by reminding me to connect with, celebrate and revel in the many facets of my own unique femininity.
Being a Bettie is a lifestyle, a life choice and a conscientiously conscious decision to live to my fullest.
Being a Bettie is a reminder to rise to the call to be my own woman, my own Bettie: Beautiful Effervescent Transformational Tantalizing Inquisitive Energizing.
Ms Bettie’s words ring true: what kind of Bettie you want to be is up to you– just be your own BETTIE.
Watch Juwana’s original short music film, “Long Time”:
Follow Juwana online:
Happy Women’s Day to all of you today and everyday!
I’m personally highlighting the wonderful Zeina who was my student while I was teaching at Prague College.
She is fantastic and I’m choosing to honor her today.
She is a Syrian journalist in Prague, author of three books for children, a film critique, and an activist.
All my love,
Website of her documentary film: https://zeinakana.wixsite.com/taste-of-homeland
Article in Czech: https://www.divadelni-noviny.cz/pulmesic-na-prazskem-nebi
International Bettie contributor Masa Hilcisin is a dynamic woman, raised in Bosnia and living in Prague. An educator, humanitarian, filmmaker, mother and artist (among many other titles), here is what she poetically had to say when asked about what it means to her to help women heal through art … and to be a Bettie.
There is her gaze
Look into the memory. There is her gaze, gaze of the past, gaze of vulnerability, gaze which explores borders, gaze which knows when to say “no”, gaze which follows layers of paint, happiness and sorrow…gaze which follows her-story, her-saying of stories that are yet to be exposed…gaze which fights for magic, beauty, exchange…Exchange of her voice with the rest of us, with the rest of you, exchange of her texture, exchange of her tones, exchange of intimate and particular nuances of life…Do you see her stunning composition gleamed by translucent light? Do you hear sound, her music which comes from thick texture, from harmonic dance of her-stories? Do you feel her vivid dance as she binds up, disappearing and emerging again? Do you feel the pulse of her visual surfacing as she holds and reveals the pain?
There she is; she uses canvas, words, tones, dance, papers, paints, fabrics, frame to compose stories of freedom, to compose stories of shame, to compose stories of immigration, to compose stories of guilt, to compose stories of motherhood, to compose stories of home, to compose stories of sacrifices, to compose stories of wars, to compose stories of heart, to compose personal, vivid and boundless parts of her-self. There she is; she uses script, scream, silence, touch, tangible realm, to share intimate, to share personal, to share a particular part of her-own life.
And there she meets Bettie who was another gaze, gaze of magic, gaze, of beauty, gaze of exploration, gaze of subtle approach, gaze of deep knowing, gaze of irresistible sexuality, gaze of her own body, gaze of openness, gaze of wisdom, gaze of teaching, gaze of her sassiness, gaze of her freedom, gaze of her journey, gaze of her own growth, gaze of laugh, gaze of dance, gaze of dance, gaze of dance, gaze of dance…
Do you see personal space, public space which she uses to share her-own private self with you, with us?
And I am one of you. One who shares her own art, one who explores, one who experienced immigration, sacrifices, love, pain, love, motherhood, pain, love, war, intensity, surviving, pain, love, growing, emerging, pain, love…One who adores to share your art, art of you great women artists, art of your beings, art of your voices…your paints, your sculptures, your sounds, your images, your creations, your beauties, your sorrows, your strengths…One who keeps following you in personal and public spaces, sharing your voices, sharing her own voice in beautiful synergy of art and dance, and festivals, and galleries…in endless journey of your own creative beauties…where your art, her-art keep flowing, keep emerging, keep dancing, keep dancing, keep dancing, keep dancing…
If you’d like to support Masa in her drive to help others with women and visual storytelling in Mexico, please click here!
My first international trip was a 9th-grade exchange trip to France. We visited Kenosha’s sister city, Douai in the north and also spent time in Paris. This trip was life-changing for tons of reasons, one being that it was the catalyst for me to get my first job. I had to earn the money to go; thank you 5:00 am biscuit-making shift at the McDonald’s on Sheridan Road! In spite of that trip being a life-changing experience, it took me over thirty years until I traveled abroad again.
Theater got me to Prague, becoming certified to teach English at The Language House TEFL allowed me to stay. During my three years in the Czech Republic, I met some amazing, international women who changed my outlook on life. I was introduced to khachapuri by a friend from Georgia; from a woman from Egypt, I listened first-hand to stories about the war in Syria and how it has separated her family; I taught alternative teaching methods to female teachers from Kazakhstan; I visited a dear friend in her home country of Croatia, whom I met while modeling in a Chicago hair show. I am forever changed by these experiences because it taught me who I was through their eyes and their lives. And now, I too, am an international woman.
I do encourage you to travel. Find a way. I never thought I would go to Prague. But, it happened. Back in 1997, in spite of her telling me I would, I never thought I’d meet my friend Mia in Croatia. When I left Paris as a 15 year-old girl, I never thought I would get back there, but I did. Whether you’re in the early part of your twenties, where you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you next and things are up in the air…or approaching your mid-forties and you’ve followed several paths to get to where you are now, yet still don’t know what to do next, travel may be your answer.
If you don’t have the immediate resources to travel and see places first-hand, you can certainly be exposed to international culture locally. All you need to do is to look. Visit the consulate in your area to find events, community centers and perhaps language classes to enrich yourself. Look for InterNations and join; this organization is a community of international expats and offers a multitude of events and resources. There are branches in LA, Chicago, Houston, Mexico City, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Toronto and more! Or, go to MeetUp.com and search for folks like you who want to experience good times with language, art, food or fun from different cultures. Go ahead, look for the international inspiration you seek, or create your own. By the way, until you can plan your trip and buy your ticket, you can always travel through food! This post inspired me to find a place in LA that made Khachapuri! #devouredit
This month, in honor or International Women’s Month, we’ll feature guest contributor articles from our International Betties, Masa Hilcisin, Juwana Jenkins, Zeina Kanawati and hopefully Vi Huyen Tran. These are all women who have participated in the Be Your Own Bettie workshop, thus giving them a special Bettie badge. More than that, I hope that what they share will help you know that their lives are not so far away from yours. I also hope that you’ll be inspired to perhaps visit their homes and become…international.
I’m incredibly honored to have been able to spend time in their presence; to soak up whatever it was that the Universe wanted me to learn from them and vice versa. I hope you enjoy their words.
It was a self-deprecating morning. I looked in the bathroom mirror and I didn’t like my hair. I didn’t like my dry morning lips. I didn’t like my puffy face. Hell, I didn’t even like my pajamas. There was nothing positive about my reflection. Except, I was aware. I was aware of the dislike and the understanding that none of these physical traits defined me. And I immediately thought, “Beauty is a feeling, baby.” And from that, a poem and ultimately spoken word piece called “BeautiFULL” was born. I wrote it in less than ten minutes and from there, t’was a great day…a day all about self-love.
Many of the new experiences I seek in life come from that place. A place where I consciously acknowledge the beast of a beauty that I really am and decide that she needs something worthy of her magnificence. Something that speaks to who she has evolved into and how fantastic it is that she’s made it this far. Several years ago, that new experience was pole dancing.
I walked into a friend’s pole dance studio with all the confidence in the world. Mainly because I had been a professional dancer and choreographer for decades and figured this would be another credit on my resume of fabulousness. Well, my confidence shifted. Not to a place of doubt, but to a place of readiness. After one hour-long class, I knew that I had a challenge on my hands. I wasn’t strong enough to do many of the tricks and spins I saw the instructors doing and I knew that I would have to access other parts of my body and mind to master them. And I was all for it. I stripped down to my sports bra and booty shorts, and I became a student…again.
The first month was brutal. Three classes a week and a new bruise to mark every class. But I was dedicated. Three classes a week and new calluses destroyed my pristine hands. But I kept going. Three classes a week and soreness unlike I’ve ever felt racked my body. But I got better.
The feeling of capability one gets from mastering a new pole trick is somewhat indescribable. You literally feel like Superwoman and you start to believe anything is possible. And you begin to love yourself for the progress. You also tap into this wonderful, hidden power that you never knew you had. Sex. Sexuality. And not for the pleasure of anyone else, but for yourself. You begin to see yourself as a powerhouse and understand why the sacred feminine is a beast. No matter the weight or body type or physical traits, SHE is phenomenal. And SHE deserves to give and be loved. And again, not from anyone else but from herself. To acknowledge the strength and capability of the body is phenomenal. To know that resilience and spirit can overcome any fear is phenomenal. To look at your own reflection and see your ideal self is phenomenal. And to embrace your sexuality and its power is doubly phenomenal.
Since that first pole class, I’ve embarked on many new, exciting journeys revolving around embracing my physical and sexual beauty. Recently it was the Be Your Own Bettie workshop. A few hours of camaraderie with other women acknowledging the sassy, sultry, sophisticated parts of ourselves, complete with self-reflection and champagne. It was another marvelous act of self-love that I consciously bestowed upon myself as a gift for the New Year. And that to me is what love of self, means. Taking time to acknowledge your own power, your own beauty and generously giving to yourself with time, effort, thoughtfulness and no regret. It has been a wonderful journey, sometimes with self-deprecating moments that taught me that there is always greatness brewing inside and it just takes a moment of self-awareness to remember to give love to the person in the mirror.
– by Tanya Alexander (originally titled “Mirror Image”)
To learn more about Tanya, please click or follow below.
Download the poem “BeautiFULL” at www.cdbaby.com/cd/tanyaalexander2
A New Love
Love has always been something that amazes me, that fuels me, that lifts me, that makes my world go round. I am enamored with love and how it takes up space in our lives and pushes us to do things we never thought we would, to take chances, to step into the unknown, to feel all the feels, to be vulnerable, to expand ourselves bigger than we ever thought. Love has always strengthened me and it should because it is one of the only components in the world that we can all relate to and whether we know it or not we all yearn for. I grew up in a house full of love, full with love from my parents and being a witness to the love my parents have for each other. Growing up in a loving household made loving others easy, it allowed my heart to be open to love. When I married my husband, I knew he was the one, I knew he was my perfect love in this life and our love spoke a different language that only he and I could understand. We have navigated love in our own way and it is beautiful and fulfilling.
A couple of months ago, I fell in love with someone new. Someone unexpected and my heart jumps out of my chest and is shown so clearly on my sleeve. I have found another new language to speak and tears of joy are a constant as I look into my new lover’s eyes. He is beautiful, wonderful, more than I could have dreamed and everything and nothing that I could expect. My son, my fruit, my baby boy…our son, our fruit, our baby boy was born on December 10, 2018 and he has changed me forever. A warmth fills my body as I write these words because my love and happiness overwhelm me and sometimes all I can do is cry for this gift I have been given. My son, Kairos gives me new life, he gives me a new everything because his newness renews my soul, my heart and makes me know all is always ok. I am pushed forward, wrapped tight, expanded in ways I never knew and seeing life through a new lens. People ask if I feel different and the answer is, “Yes.” I am different. I am different as a woman, a wife, an actor, an artist, a daughter, a friend and a mother. I see in new levels of color and beyond myself. Kairos means God’s timing or the most opportune time…not human time and so I am reminded of that daily. That this life is filled with what we want to do and how we think it should get done and when it all should happen but we all know life is happening for us always and that is God’s time. My son reminds me of that and it has given me a new confidence, a new trust in myself and what I offer to the world, to relationships, to myself and stepping into that boldly with no filter but confidence that I have produced someone so wonderfully beautiful has landed me into what I call my new normal. We have produced the best project we will ever do and it has taught me to step into my light even more, to know that I am always enough and that love does change people and change the world. Kairos my son, I love you!
Keena is an “Original Brown Bettie”, meaning she was one of the original cast members of Harlem’s Night Cabaret, where Betties began. Please learn more about her life now by visiting her website and following her on social. Links below
My lord, is it hard to be human. I learned this very clearly while on the radio. I was the co-host and co-producer of a love and relationships internet program for many years back in LA called Finding Cupid with David Cruz, and it seemed all our guests were having the same troubles: balancing and finding their way through the tumultuous journey of being a human being. And then I said it out loud, on the radio, for the very first time. It’s Hard To Be Human. And the truth resonated. And my company name and subsequent podcast was born.
How do we do this thing, this act of being a human? How do we make sense out of this ever changing experience of our…humanity. That is, of course, if we’re paying attention. If we’re willing to struggle; to do the work. Ooof. A tall order sometimes for sure. How much easier might it be to be a domestic housecat; being fed, taking naps during the day in the sun. Oh, how I often wished I was born into another form! It took me a long time to come to terms with my own human animalness. It took me a while to understand that it’s Hard To Be Human, and that’s it. If you’re doing your work, if you’re finding some joy in the struggle, you’re on the right path. You’re doing a great job.
These elements, issues, psychological experiences enthrall me and pushed me to leave the radio world of love and relationships to want to dig deeper; to delve into the source of our pain and struggles – our humanity. Hence, in a special studio space in the heart of Prague, the first ever pilot of the Hard To Be Human Podcast was born. Hard To Be Human is the umbrella brand name of my business. And when I interview folks for the podcast, the intention for it – as well as for my public speaking business – remains the same. To share the truth, vulnerability, frailty, and thereby transformative strength of the human condition, with all its ups and downs, in a manner that resounds with authenticity and relevance.
My business is growing, but my podcast is sleepy. While engaging in my reality about why the podcast has been a silent stepsister to my public speaking persona, the truth is is that I’ve learned about my own limitations, how long it can take me to learn, and how beautifully I thrive within a collaborative and cohesive environment. And if I don’t have this perfect soil for my development, I can, at times, shrivel on the vine. The gorgeous folks who all helped me with my pilot episode, all have rich and vibrant lives of their own and thereby needed to grow in directions different than being my co-host or my sound engineer. So, I let her sleep. Dealing with my insecurities about how to make it viable. People asking about it and me having nothing to say. All the while, looking at my reasons why I have yet to make it more active; a more vital part of my enterprise. And I’m here now to honestly say, I’m looking at my fear and finally seeing it for what it is. A kind reminder that a human is often not ready until, well, they are.
I needed to grow into a more confident place, where I could really stand WITH my courage, feel it inside me and welcome it without question, and therefore with conviction put my HtbH stamp on my own work. Two years ago I was reconfiguring the broken stained glass of my life into a new frame. I was still finding my voice post-divorce, post the loss of my father, with my new life in Central Europe, my new life as an expat. Sometimes it takes a while to find your way. It just does.
It’s now 2019. I’m witnessing my business start to slowly flourish due to increasing my public Hard To Be Human presence through workshops and promotion. And I now have three more podcast recordings ‘in the can’ that just need a little love, a little focused attention by me, and my Nikki “No Fucks” attitude to help get it out of bed and bring it to life. And the best part is that due to the culmination of all my years of being an Artist, a Producer, and an Educator, I believe in trusting the process. I wasn’t ready before. I had needed a team. I still do, and yet I am now living in the clarity to know I can also do it on my own. The fear that once protected my brain and my abilities no longer serves, and my voice and the voice of those I’ve interviewed are stronger than my need for collaborative perfection. So, I’m getting there. And the technology rises to me and my challenges. I am learning. I am changing. I am evolving. As, hopefully, we all are. So, get the coffee ready. Soon, the Hard To Be Human Podcast will be fully awake and ready to go.
– Nicole J. Adelman, founder Hard To Be Human; Prague Bettie
Hard To Be Human is an international Public Speaking enterprise founded by Nicole J. Adelman. We teach professionals in all fields, specializing in non-native English speakers, the skills of Rhetoric, Elocution, Enunciation, Speech Writing, and how to release, unlock and fully express their English. We focus on preparing our clients for public speaking events such as corporate presentations, TED talks, and auditions at all levels. Working with Hard to be Human means immediate results; greater confidence, increased knowledge of English and how the language works, and the subsequent joys that occur with learning these skills.
Hard To Be Human is also an international human interest podcast, based out of Studio SAVEC (www.studiosavec.cz) in Prague, Czech Republic, where issues and questions that challenge us, make us grow, and ask us what it means to be HUMAN are discussed and explored. Good Vibes, Great Guests, Invigorating Conversations – it’s Hard To Be Human.
Meet Nicole and learn more about Hard To Be Human! Her next speaking engagement is Saturday, March 23rd at La Cave d’Adrien in Prague, 7:30pm for Girl Gone International. More info about the event and her speech here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1012727385595137/
This past weekend, I presented the first Be Your Own Bettie (BYOB) workshop of 2019.
Ten years ago, I was sitting with a dear friend from my book club and I told her my idea of wanting to do a workshop for women. She’s a photographer who also loves to design and decorate; she has a really great eye. In what felt like two seconds (or most likely, two or three meetings), she had a design concept and we were ready to go.
The first workshop was a blast. Everything was pink. Pink petals welcomed the women as they walked in. A pink cake ordered from Albertson’s had a pink version of the Bettie logo emblazoned upon it beautifully. There was pink champagne. Pink table cloths adorned the tables decked with pink napkins and plates. There was classy water with lemons and limes. A fruit tray. It was gorgeous. Feminine. Delicate. Everything we wanted and imagined, came to be.
With much promoting and a little prodding, women showed up for what was a truly empowering event; both for them and maybe even a little more for me. I’d never done something like this before; I was scared. I was shaking when I spoke, but my soul and my intuition spoke louder than my fear and I stepped out before those women on sultry faith mixed with a bit of bravery. And we did the damn thing.
Subsequent BYOB’s were just as lovely and just as fulfilling. But they got harder and harder to do. My passion didn’t wane, but the funds in my wallet would. Or the energy and focus to promote and get participants would falter. Or I’d get a new temp job or acting gig or my cat would get sick…something would happen and I’d stop. And then start again. Because I loved what I was doing; I believed in what I was doing and for whom I was doing it. So I would press on.
When I moved to Prague, I had no intention of doing anything Bettie. But, you know the power of the Bettie and the power of passion! Betties were born again, as was the workshop. I had a creative space at Studio SAVEC where I presented several workshops to international women from all over…including a travelling group of sistahs who were spending three months in Prague on a wander year away from the US. I also presented in a private home for a beautiful woman and mom who wanted to share the sultry with some of her dear multinational friends after having taken my public workshop at Studio SAVEC. And I presented yet another BYOB workshop during the SWAN festival to a group of women representing places like Bosnia, Syria, Russia and more. I learned that sensuality translates. Empowerment translates. We did the damn thing. It was gorgeous.
While in Prague, I also learned I had to let go. Gone was the Albertson’s logo cake; who could find or afford such a thing on an ESL teacher’s salary? Gone was the signature red, slinky Bettie dress that was in storage in the states. Gone were the patent leather stilettos I’d purchased specifically for BYOB. Those things that were aesthetically important to me were simply not available to me. I didn’t feel very Bettie; why go on? But, once I got over myself (with the help of girlfriend talk), I realized I still had the important thing: Me. So I pivoted. Pink became red. Hors d’oeuvres became rohlíks with Gervais and bright veggies. Red slink was replaced with black slink from my favorite second hand shop, Textile House on Malá Štěpánská. Stilettos were replaced with heeled booties from Tesco, the Target of Eastern Europe. BUT! One sophisticated thing remained (besides me :)). The bubbles! I scoured the obchody (shops) for cheap champagne glasses I could afford and it was on. BYOB lived on through me, with me and for others.When I returned home to the US, I knew the Bettie burn would rekindle itself. Yet, I didn’t want to do it all the same way. I wanted better. I wanted bigger. Again, I had to calm myself down; to meet myself where I was with what I had. For one, I had to wait over six months for my ankle to heal; no dancing or cat-walk strutting on a broken bone. I had to rework the Bettie brand and website. I had to get in shape mentally and physically. I had grown in so many ways. And then it was time. I pulled the trigger. Once again, I was scared. Worried about the work that was to come to make the workshop happen. This type of fear is the reward you earn after completing your first, second and third rodeos, isn’t it? I had to suck it up. If this was what I wanted, I had to be brave.
I pulled out the pink Bettie suitcase where stuff was stored. I combed through the supplies my dear friend and I created. Threw out what I no longer needed, kept what I did. My blue print was solid. I got to work. I found the patent Bettie heels in storage. Took the red slink to the cleaners. Found the fishnets. And the eyelashes. Hired a designer to rework the materials I had designed in Word and would print and hand cut tediously. Dusted off my boxed and stored champagne glasses. Graciously accepted the help of my former wine-business boyfriend with getting champagne*. I was ready.
As I scrambled to leave our apartment this past Sunday, all dolled up and saddled with a gurney of supplies, I turned the wrong way and my box of champagne glasses tumbled to the concrete. The splintered sound of twelve flutes shattering to an unusable mess sent me into a fit filled with major expletives that reverberated through the hallways of my apartment building. Amid stares from a passing neighbor, I picked up the noisy box of clinking shards; I didn’t do the work to smile and hide my anger like I usually do. Screw that. NOT covering, not hiding. NOT happy. So, I grumbled and kept cursing and kept pulling my weight. I really wanted to cry, but that wasn’t worth the sacrifice (or time) of re-gluing my eyelashes. I wanted to cry at the absurdity of having saved and carted those champagne glasses for ten years to have them break in such a stupid way. I also wanted to wail really loudly because WHO can drink champagne from a f*cking pink cardboard cup? NOT my girls, not on my watch. Not me. Not cuuuuute! I wanted to whimper sorrily because my boyfriend had offered to help me with all the shit before he had to leave (for football); he had warned me about being able to handle it all … but I’d waved him off, saying I could. (Grrrr.)
By the time I got to the elevator, I had pulled myself together. Somewhat. In my deep breaths, I found clarity. I remembered Prague. BYOB isn’t exactly about the vessel from which we drink. It helps a helluva lot because the women deserve it, but it ain’t about that vessel. It’s about so much more. As is life, right? We tend to have what we need to succeed; it’s when we add so many expectations to the heap of what’s already going on that we crash and burn. Not necessary. As I shoved everything into the elevator with the poise of my new maturity, I resolved myself into accepting that the girls would just have to drink out of the cardboard cups and all would be … “fine”.
Hot, flustered, excited and pumped, I arrived at my new swanky venue to the wide, expectant eyes of my brand new and waiting assistants. In a frazzled mess of instructions, I blurted out that I had lost the champagne glasses and that we’d have to improvise. One of them, young yet wise, who goes by @learnfromabird on Instagram, looked at me calmly, sharing her zen. She explained that she lived in the neighborhood downtown. Knew the shops (obchody). With finger raised, she said, “I got you.” And within 20 minutes, while @__________sin and I continued to set up, Bird was back with more champagne glasses and all was right with the world.
The beauty of BYOB is that women come together. And not for nothin’. Showing up to something where you have no idea what’s going to happen, is brave. Showing up again, and going deeper within that environment that is asking you to do some self-work, is even more brave. Showing up one more time as a woman who knows she has something to share that will benefit another is super enlightening.
The funny thing is, we do this all the time. Showing up to the job. Going on an interview. Going to a parent-teacher meeting. Going on a date. Presenting at a meeting. Going to brunch with girlfriends. Waking up for another day with yourself. Showing up with no champagne glasses. We do it all the time. BYOB shows us another way to do it. I’m so grateful I’ve been shown and continue to show the way.
*I’ve been schooled by my boyfriend that I’m usually serving sparking wine, not Champagne. ‘Cause, you know, there’s a difference. #bubbles. Pffft